Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Don't Like Ike

By Tamra Norton
The good thing about a hurricane is that you know it's
coming. The evening news shows a big, orange swirly
blob in the south Atlantic, and our greatest hope is
that the swirly blob we'll never receive a name . . . because
then it gets personal. It becomes that annoying relative you
hope never visits. But odds are, eventually, ready or not,
that annoying relative will come . . . and it's not gonna be
fun! It does, however, give us a "heads up" to clean out our

The bad thing about a hurricane is that you know it's coming.
And as much as we don't want to, everyone goes into panic
mode. At the grocery store, there's a rush on bread, water, and
Spam (never mind that its nutritional value is questionable at
best). Thankfully, the stuff is yummy—especially fried—and
hurricane season is the only time this mommy will buy it.
There are lines at the gas station, Home Depot, and the
bank. Neighbors take down trampolines and put away yard
furniture. Some put up plywood over their windows.

And then we wait . . .

Three days before Ike made landfall, just northeast of
Houston, the craziness began. And though I felt we were
somewhat prepared, I still went out and purchased more of the
essentials. I mean, who wants to be caught in the middle of a
hurricane without Spam? (Our last supply was ravenously
consumed the week after the last hurricane threat). And since
I really didn't want to break into the fifty-gallon water barrels
disguised as furniture under tablecloths in the corners of my
bedroom, I went out and bought a dozen jugs of water and
extra batteries. (Thanks to GameBoy, I can't seem to keep
them stocked in this houseful of videogame-aholics.)

Friday afternoon, anticipation of the looming storm was
palpable. With gray skies and wind already stirring the tall
pines, magnolias, and elms of our neighborhood, we tried to
settle in. After the fiasco of Hurricane Rita three years earlier,
where the Houston freeways became clogged, those of us
living inland (we're 70 miles in, on the northwest side of
town) were asked by the mayor to hunker down so those
near the coast could safely evacuate. Even before a drop of
rain fell, the streets of Galveston were flooding. We were
glued to the television as slowly, the storm approached and
the sun set. They said it would arrive sometime between
twelve and two.

Since we don't have an "inner room" in our house except the
bathroom, we decided that the hallway and bathroom would
be the safest place for our little Hurricane-Ike slumber party.
After thoroughly scrubbing the bathroom (normally used by
three boys—yeah, you're feeling my pain already), I pulled
twin-size mattresses into our hallway and a crib mattress into
the bathroom. I even made a bed inside the bathtub for my
six-year-old. (She won't stay in her own bed all night, so I
have no idea why I thought she might sleep in a bathtub-bed
during a hurricane. Wishful thinking, I guess).

At 10:15 p.m. while watching the news, the lights went out.
Little did we know just how long it would be before our
precious electricity would be restored. My husband decided
to sleep in our bed, my twenty- and twenty-two-year-old
daughters slept in the room next to ours (away from the
window), so this brave momma-bear hunkered down in the
hall with her cubs—a twelve- and sixteen-year-old, while
the ten- and six-year-old occupied the bathroom off the hall
(probably the safest spot in the house).

When the flashlights finally went out at about 11:30, the
house was already hotter than h&!!. Houston's nickname—
H-town—is for more than one reason . . . and I don’t mean
hurricanes. Between the soaring wind, giggling six-year-old
(now sleeping at my head—picture the letter T) and sweltering
heat, I could not sleep. And that's when I had a brilliant idea.
With flashlight in hand, I wandered into the kitchen, opened
the freezer, and quickly grabbed the first cold thing I could
get my hands on—a frozen ball of leftover bread dough. This
ball, soon-to-turn blob, was my constant companion for the
remainder of the night. Forget about the husband, batteryoperated
radio, flashlight, and even water. All I wanted—
needed—was my blob of cold dough (confined within its
trusty zip-lock bag and plastered to my stomach or back) and
I'd survive this thing.

I think I dozed a bit—maybe an hour—and woke up feeling
like I was sleeping on the floor of a laundromat with every
dryer running with a handful of loose change thrown in. I'm
not sure what all debris was knocking against the living room
and family room windows, but the entire front and side of our
house was being pelted good. The wind was relentless. I
checked the time on my cell phone—2:00 a.m. We were in
the thick of it! At the same time, as if on cue, Dennis came
out of the bedroom. We were both absolutely stunned by the
violent roar of Ike. We grabbed the battery operated radio—
my lifeline for the next eight days—and started out into the
family room to listen . . . but quickly turned tail back to the
safety of the hallway. In a word, we were spooked. The tall
ceilings and large windows of the family and living rooms
suddenly felt very unsafe.

For the remainder of the night, we were stuck on the
"laundromat floor" listening to Ike's wrath. Due to the
noise, we all remained awake most of the night, dosing only
occasionally. We were hot and rattled, but we were together,
and we definitely felt the protective hand of the Lord.

By about 6:00 a.m. the winds had died down considerably
(although the storm wouldn't completely leave until about
noon). The view from our front door was like a vegetative war
zone. Tree limbs and foliage were strewn everywhere. We also
noticed that one section of our living room carpet under a
window was completely rain-soaked. With three very
absorbent towels, we sopped up the water over and over, and
wrung out the towels outside—for a good forty-five minutes.

We'd also noticed a few roof leaks during the storm and had
placed buckets and bowls underneath. One section of ceiling
in the master bedroom, roughly the size of a dinner plate, was
especially bad (actually starting to droop). This was directly
under an old antenna on the roof which should have been
removed long ago—grrrr. The winds had jostled it completely
loose, leaving an opening for all that rain to leak through.
When we received a second rainstorm the night after the
hurricane, it caused this section of ceiling to collapse, leaving
a gaping hole the size of previously mentioned dinner plate
between the attic and my bedroom. (More on this later.)

Well, I could go on and on, but at this point I think I'll just
offer in bullet points some random thoughts for those who
find themselves in the path of an oncoming hurricane.

» The scripture is absolutely true—if we are prepared, we
shall not fear. I'm so grateful I didn't have to brave the
grocery store and gas lines (at the very few stores and gas
stations that were even open) after Ike blew through. I
literally saw fifty-car gas lines, and every open gas station
was patrolled by police officers. Can you say scarynutzomania?!!!
The FEMA POD (Point of Distribution) across
from the grocery store where my kids work was insanely
chaotic. Again, more lines, more police officers. I'm glad
the food, water, and ice were available for those who
needed it, but I'm grateful that we didn't.

» Bathing in cold water really isn't all that bad when it's 500
degrees outside.

» Bathing in cold water is miserable for the first four days
after the hurricane when it has cooled off to the 80s (mid
60s at night). This is when we started to boil water . . . to
BATHE in (still had plenty of drinking water).

» After a hurricane, when you've boiled bathing water,
you are absolutely fine with—and even encourage—the
sharing of said bath water (especially when you are first
or second to use it—these things usually go by age).
And after everyone has bathed, you then use the same,
still fairly warm and quite cloudy water, to wash clothes.
Waste not, want not! :) We have eight bodies living at
home. NO WAY could we go eight days without doing
laundry. I think I counted four batches in the eight days
(the last of which was still on the rigged-up clothes line
when electricity was restored, and therefore re-washed).

» Blessed are the neighbors who own a generator and are willing
to run an extension cord to our house! Our dear neighbors
asked if we wanted it hooked up to our refrigerator.
We said, "Naah. How about the TV and DVD player?"
Yeah, we have our priorities straight (and we have children
employed at the local grocery store who can bring home ice
each night for the cooler).

» If you'd like incentive to do a speedy clean-up after a
hurricane, invite a famous author friend to stay while on
his book tour the day after you receive electricity. We'd
invited Jeff to stay at Hotel Norton months before the
storm, so I was sweating for more reasons than the heat
when his arrival date was approaching. Five days after
Ike hit, I called Jeff to see if he was still coming (all
schools had been canceled that week . . . and we still had
NO electricity). When his scheduled schools assured
him they'd be open, he tried to locate a hotel, but there
wasn't a room within 50 miles of the outskirts of
Houston. Jeff—the trooper—was prepared to "camp"
with us (though I think he would have preferred a cold
shower to the #9 bathing rank which he would have
received. Hey, we like having guests and all, but c'mon!)
:) Luckily it didn't come to that.

» Lastly, if you have a hole in your bedroom ceiling, fix it—
right away!

Dennis and Josh (our 16-year-old) had repaired all of the leaks
on the roof, but hadn't gotten to the hole in my bedroom
ceiling yet. Early Monday morning at about 5:00 (the day
after Jeff arrived) I was awakened by a huge thump below
"the hole." With trusty flashlight still next to my bed, I
pointed the light toward the hole and determined that a flap
of hanging ceiling must have fallen. Dennis thought it was
one of our two cats playing around. We went back to bed for
an hour.

Fast forward to 9:00 a.m.

I'm reclining in a water-heater heated bathtub, basking in
(and marveling over) such wondrous modern conveniences
as water heaters—not to mention hair dryers, microwaves
and the internet—when I hear my six-year-old daughter
squeaking outside of my bathroom door.

"Moooooommy . . . there's a biiiiiiiig raaaaaaat!"


"Mommy . . . there's a BIIIIIIIG RAAAAAAT!"

I heard her that time. And indeed, there was a big, gray,
furry creature comfortably seated on my bookshelf. Only it
wasn't a rat. It was an opossum—most likely the same one
that had twice been removed by my teenage son from our
garage a few weeks earlier and deposited down the street.
The critter had obviously returned and somehow made its
way through the walls and attic, and had fallen through the
hole in my bedroom ceiling hours earlier. Eeeeeew, ick,
yuck, and all that! This time my brave son caught the critter
and deposited him 20 miles from our home. I truly hope he
never comes back—the opossum OR Ike (or any of his
annoying hurricane relatives).

It was a crazy eight days, but I'd give up fried Spam forever if
we never had to go through that again. Carry on!


Stephanie Black said...

Tami, WOW! What a story! I'm grateful you all came through it all right.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Wow, and wow again. Absolutely incredible. You know, my husband, to this day, doesn't like loud wind because it reminds him of growing up in Miami and boarding up the house when hurricanes hit.

And thank goodness that wasn't actually a rat! Bleah!

Marcia Mickelson said...

Tami, Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Wow is all I can say. You guys are amazing to survive all that.